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Making Just One Cup? Here are the Best Single Serve Coffee Makers

You just woke up and have to leave for work soon. All you want is a quick cup of tasty coffee to get your brain up to speed. The good news is that these days there are plenty of excellent single cup coffee makers to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can be a bit of a task to find the right one for you.

Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of top eight candidates for the title of the best single-serve coffee maker for 2020. The review also includes a comprehensive buyer’s guide. Let’s cut straight to the chase.

At A Glance:

What to Look out for When Choosing the Best Single Cup Coffee Maker

Capsule or Pods?

Capsules

Despite what many people might have been led to believe, capsules and pods are not actually the same thing. They are often both used to refer to what is technically called a capsule. Those are the small plastic containers full of ground coffee that you plug into a machine for a single serving of coffee.

The quality of the coffee they produce isn’t necessarily as high as what you can get with freshly roasted and ground beans, but if you’re in a hurry they can be a huge convenience. Plus, they are available in a wide range of flavors, so if you’re after a quick cup of caramel mocha, you don’t have to go to the coffee shop down the road.

The machine will pierce the plastic, then express hot water through it, brewing you a cup of coffee to order. If you’re not going to drink a lot of coffee on the regular, capsules can be a good choice, as they are fully sealed and will maintain their freshness for longer.

They do have a rather harmful environmental impact, though. There are also some concerns over the potential for the plastic and aluminum capsules to leach into the water.

Pods

Pods, on the other hand, are basically the coffee version of teabags. They are generally made from biodegradable materials, unlike capsules, which is better for the environment.

The freshness of the coffee tends to suffer somewhat when they are kept for a while, as the porous container allows the coffee to come in contact with air, which reduces the flavor. If you drink a lot of coffee regularly, then this shouldn’t be a problem.

How Is It Powered?

The two main choices you have for your single-serve coffee maker are whether it is powered electrically, or if it uses gravity to pass the water over the ground coffee.

Electric

Electric coffee makers are the norm today, as they are able to heat the water and brew coffee all in one machine. They’re best if you’re after a quick cup at home each morning without any fuss. Simple and convenient.

Related: Coffee Makers You Can Operate With Your Smartphone

Gravity

If you’re the type of person who isn’t going to let a camping or road trip deprive you of coffee on your terms, gravity-powered brewers are a great option.

Because you don’t have to plug them in, gravity coffee makers are great when you’re on the move. You will have to heat the water yourself though, so they’re a bit more complex to use.

K-Cups, Nespresso Capsules, and You

Keurig revitalized the market for capsule-based coffee delivery systems with their version, which they named the K-Cup. Their version of the concept quickly caught on, with instant coffee mavens Nespresso jumping on the bandwagon soon after. Nowadays, there are a number of companies, including the likes of Illy and Lavazza that have their own versions.

coffee made with the nespresso pixie, one of the best single serve coffee makers in this list

While the K-cup pod revolutionized the single-serve coffee maker market, they did so at an environmental cost.

Because of the high-strength plastic they are made of, K-cups and similar capsules take a very long time to degrade. And, as they’ve become so popular and yet are made out of unrecyclable materials, an estimated 56 billion of them ended up in landfills in 2018 (1).

“39,000 coffee capsules are made every second, and 29,000 of them go to the dump.”

Many of the companies that are producing coffee capsules are making efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products. Now, there are some refillable options available that let you choose your coffee yourself. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you pay a premium for the convenience too, as the price per pound of capsule-based coffee is nearly double on average.

On the plus side, refillable capsules cut down on coffee and water waste, and provide a reliably consistent cup of coffee each time. The reduction in wasted beans actually helps their environmental case, as they use less coffee per cup than filter coffee makers. This reduces the amount of land needed to grow the beans, as well as transport costs and more (2).

In other words, it’s a complex issue, and if you have concerns about the impact of your coffee, you should do some more research to see what you feel comfortable using.

Single Cup Coffee Maker Reviews

Image Product Details
Most Popular Choice Most Popular Choice Hamilton Beach The Scoop
  • Drip coffee maker
  • Electric
SEE ON AMAZON
Best K-Cup Option Best K-Cup Option Keurig K55 K-Classic
  • K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Electric
SEE ON AMAZON
Most Functionality Most Functionality Keurig K-Elite
  • K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Electric
See on Amazon
Best Compact K-Cup Option Best Compact K-Cup Option Keurig K15
  • K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Electric
SEE ON AMAZON
Budget Pick Budget Pick BLACK+DECKER Single-Serve Coffeemaker
  • Drip or pod
  • Electric
See on Amazon
Best for Espresso Best for Espresso DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie
  • Nespresso capsule
  • Electric
See on Amazon
Best For ‘Coffee to Go’ Best For ‘Coffee to Go’ AdirChef Grab N’ Go
  • Drip
  • Electric
See on Amazon
Best for Travelers Best for Travelers AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker
  • Press
  • Gravity and pressure
SEE ON AMAZON

1. Hamilton Beach The Scoop – Most Popular Choice

hamilton beach the scoop

Specifications

  • Type: Drip coffee maker
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

This single-serve coffee maker is all about flexibility and speed, and it does a great job of both, which is why it’s one of the top sellers in the category. It can make a standard 8oz. cup of java in less than 90 seconds, and can fill your 14oz. travel mug in about 2 ½ minutes. It’s perfect if you want to brew and run.

The adjustable cup holder can fit both sizes, and the reusable mesh filter, which also serves as the scoop for the ground coffee, has two measurement lines to help you get your dose right every time.

Speaking of the mesh, it doesn’t need any filter papers, and it means you don’t have to deal with any extra waste other than your coffee grounds.

“It’s cheaper in the long run than capsule-based coffee makers, which is always worth considering.”

Things we liked

  • Fast brewing – less than 90 seconds to make an 8oz. cup of coffee
  • Reusable mesh filter with measures doubles as a scoop
  • Durable stainless steel construction
  • Automatic shutoff
  • Adjustable cup size and brew strength

Things we didn’t like

  • Can splash
  • May overflow if overfilled or grind is too fine

There’s also a switch to choose between Regular or Bold brewing options. The former is best for your standard cup of coffee, while Bold works better for finer grinds or flavored coffees. All in all, this is a good looking and effective machine for a reasonable price.

2. Keurig K55 K-Classic – Best K-Cup Option

keurig k55

Specifications

  • Type: K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

Keurig are the kings of the capsule coffee contenders, and their experience in the market shines through in this mid-range version of their flagship coffee machine. This machine has been a best seller for quite some time, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s speedy, with a brewing time of around one minute. It’s convenient and easy to use. Put in a K-Cup, press the button for the size of your cup, and moments later you’re drinking one of more than 75 different brands and 400 varieties of coffee. It’s also flexible, as you can pick your favorite ground coffee and put it into a reusable My K-Cup filter. However, you’ll have to buy one separately if that’s your plan (3).

This pod coffee maker has a generous water reservoir for its size, holding 48 ounces, enough for around six cups of coffee before you have to worry about refilling it. It’s also relatively easy to clean. It has a removable drip tray, though it doesn’t have a descaling function so you’ll need to clean it regularly with vinegar if your tap water is hard.

Overall, this is a great, versatile machine for the money, and is perfect for a busy morning or for a small office environment.

Things we liked

  • Can brew 6 to 10oz. K-Cups
  • Can use ground coffee in the My K-Cup reusable filter
  • Very easy to use
  • Fast brewing time
  • Reservoir holds 6 cups of water
  • Auto shutoff
  • Free stainless steel travel mug

Things we didn’t like

  • Requires regular cleaning and descaling
  • Auto shutoff takes a long time to kick in

3. Keurig K-Elite – Most Functionality

k-elite coffee machine

Specifications

  • Type: K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

One of the most versatile and feature-rich single-serve coffee machines on the market, Keurig’s K-Elite is a step up from the K-Classic in a lot of ways. That being said, it retains Keurig’s hallmark user-friendly controls. It’s still a great choice for a swift coffee first thing, thanks to the brewing time of under a minute. But it also has a number of extra bells and whistles to justify its higher price.

It can handle 5 sizes of K-Cups, from the tiny 4oz. all the way up to the hefty 12oz version. It is also compatible with the Keurig’s refillable My K-Cup filters if you want to pick your own coffee. You can adjust the strength of your brew at the press of a button, and you’ll be able to get around 8 cups of great coffee before refilling it thanks to the large 75oz. water reservoir.

Other handy options include a button for hot water, if for some reason you feel like a cup of tea rather than a delicious coffee.

You can alter the strength of the brew, and you can even use the Ice setting to quickly make a tasty iced coffee. The drip tray is removable for easy cleaning, and also helps to accommodate larger cups and mugs. It can hold an entire brew’s worth of coffee, so its less likely to overflow.

If you don’t mind paying a bit extra for your single cup coffee machine, then it’s hard to go wrong with the K-Elite. It also looks great and offers the choice of brushed silver, slate, or gold exterior.

Things we liked

  • Fits 5 sizes of K-Cup, from 4 to 12 oz.
  • Fits other brands of capsule
  • Can provide regular or stronger brews
  • Has an Iced Coffee setting
  • Can provide hot water for tea, instant soup, etc.
  • Fast brew time
  • Lots of programmable options
  • Generous 75oz. reservoir for 8 cups of coffee

Things we didn’t like

  • Not the most affordable machine

Related: Best Cold Brew/Cold Drip Coffee Maker

4. Keurig K15 – Best Compact K-Cup Option

keurig k15

Specifications

  • Type: K-Cup capsule and drip coffee maker
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

The K15 by Keurig is a compact option that doesn’t compromise on quality. It’s just as reliable as the fancy Keurig K575 machine from their stable, without having to burn a hole in your wallet.

It’s a single-serve machine in the truest sense of the word, as it only holds enough water to provide one cup of coffee. It’s not ideal for larger households, but it makes keeping clean a cinch. It also is energy-efficient, as it automatically shuts off the power after each brew. The removable drip tray also makes life easier when sprucing it up.

Like many other Keurig machines, it can also use their refillable My K-Cup filter, making it respectably flexible. Combine that with the huge range of the K-Cup flavors and brews that you can get, from hundreds of types of coffee to tea and hot chocolate, and you’ve got yourself a great machine that can make just about any hot drink you can think of.

It’s a bit slower than some other machines, but it still takes less than 2 minutes from pressing the button to finishing the brew, so it’s hardly a lengthy wait, all things considered. Here’s where you can read our full review of the Keurig Mini K15.

Things we liked

  • Saves on counter space
  • Easily portable
  • Solid performance for a low price
  • Available in 10 different colors
  • Automatically shuts off after each brew
  • Works with 6-10oz. K-Cups and My K-Cup reusable filter

Things we didn’t like

  • No strength options
  • Slower than more expensive machines

5. BLACK+DECKER Single-Serve Coffeemaker – Best Budget Choice

black decker coffee machine

Specifications

  • Type: Drip or pod
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

Here’s another small coffee brewer that won’t take up much room on the counter, or money from your account. It’s made by BLACK+DECKER, an unusual twist for those of you who might recognize the brand name because of their more well-known power tool range.

However, it’s a smaller departure than you might think, as they’ve leveraged their many years of experience to craft an excellent little coffee maker without the premium price tag attached to models of more renowned coffee brands.

It’s ideal for small apartments or a shared space like a dorm, thanks to its small footprint. It’s also great for the morning after the night before, as you just have to press one button to get a well-brewed cup of java.

“The water temperature should be stable and somewhere between 92 and 96°C. Choosing the best espresso machine is very important to both water temperature and temperature stability.”

Similar to how pour over coffee is made, this machine’s heating process is monitored and controlled to ensure that it’s at the ideal temperature to provide you with a reliably tasty brew. Also, you can choose between putting pre-ground coffee in the removable filter and using coffee pods.

Considering the price, the size, and the convenience, this is a great introductory option to the world of single cup coffee makers. If you’re a student on a budget, or you’re moving into your first apartment, this is the coffee maker for you.

Things we liked

  • Very cheap
  • Well made
  • Tiny footprint is perfect for small kitchens
  • Easy to use with one-touch operation
  • Removable mesh filter is easy to clean and doesn’t need filter paper
  • Can also work with coffee pods
  • Comes with a 16oz. travel mug with a lid

Things we didn’t like

  • Might not last as long as more expensive options

6. DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie – Best for Espresso

DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie

Specifications

  • Type: Nespresso capsule
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

The Pixie is a high-end coffee machine that is all about reliably producing good coffee every time you switch it on. It uses Nescafe’s range of Nespresso capsules, though unfortunately, it doesn’t have the option to use a refillable filter. This means you’ll have to pick a Nespresso capsule that you like.

What you get is a coffee-shop quality brew that every barista would be proud of thanks to the high-pressure 16 bar pump. It’s perfect if you’re a fan of a rich and creamy espresso. It gets the best of the coffee’s flavor straight into your cup in an impressively short time.

You have two drink size options to choose from. When the water reservoir is running low, a light will give you a heads-up so that you won’t be caught short when trying to prepare your first cup of the day.

The Pixie is easy to clean, as the pods are automatically ejected into an internal space, and the foldable drip tray helps to avoid spillages. Plus, it has a 9-minute auto shutoff, so you don’t have to worry if you forget to turn it off yourself. But you don’t have to switch it on again after every cup.

If you love having an espresso each morning but don’t want to pay the huge price that comes with a fully-fledged espresso machine, then this is a great way to go.

Things we liked

  • 19-bar high-pressure pump
  • 2 programmable brew sizes
  • Fast heat-up time at 25 seconds
  • Simple to use
  • Easy to clean
  • Auto shut off

Things we didn’t like

  • Can only use Nespresso capsules

7. AdirChef Grab N’ Go – Best For ‘Coffee to Go’

AdirChef Coffee Maker

Specifications

  • Type: Drip
  • Powered by: Electric

SEE ON AMAZON

Cheap, light, small, and sturdy, the AdirChef Grab N’ Go is the best coffee machine for coffee lovers on the move. Whether you want to brew up a quick cup or take the machine with you, both options are easily done with this excellent little brewer.

It comes with a travel mug that’s dishwasher safe and easy to clean. Also, you don’t have to sacrifice your kitchen space as the AdirChef is very small.

It doesn’t take capsules, as it only has a built-in mesh filter. This means you’re not limited in your choices of brand or bean, though you’ll need to buy pre-ground or get yourself a grinder if you purchase whole beans. It saves on the rubbish you have to deal with, and you can feel good about not adding to the billions of capsules thrown away each year. What’s more, the filter is easy to clean.

This little coffee maker is perfect for small spaces, trips, and for coffee drinkers who want to have a quickly brewed and tasty coffee of their choice without having to pay a premium for the privilege.

Things we liked

  • Cheap and sturdy
  • Small footprint
  • Portable
  • Comes with a free dishwasher-safe travel mug

Things we didn’t like

  • Some concerns over the longevity

8. AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker – Best for Travelers

Aeropress

Specifications

  • Type: Press
  • Powered by: Gravity and pressure

SEE ON AMAZON

The AeroPress is a favorite of coffee-loving campers, travelers, and nomads of any stripe who want to make an incredible brew wherever they are in the world. This coffee maker has been around since 2006 and has garnered a reputation for some of the best tasting coffee from a surprisingly small package. It is light, sturdy, and packs down smaller than most mugs when you put it away.

While it’s similar in some ways to the traditional French press (check out our picks here), thanks to the built-in micro-filter this little maker doesn’t require a coarse grind. This means you can use fine ground coffee without ending up with a load of sludge in your cup. The other benefit is a drastically reduced brewing time from a standard French press, with it only taking about a minute to brew and press (4).

It combines the wonderfully rich flavors that come from a press with the speed and convenience of a single-serving coffee machine. It has a simple brewing system and it’s worth a look if you treasure good coffee when you’re on the go. Of course, you will have to provide the hot water yourself. All Aeropress products are also BPA-free and manufactured in the United States, like these other gears.

Things we liked

  • Portable, light, and very compact
  • Doesn’t need electricity to work
  • Produces great-tasting coffee
  • Very quick brew speed

Things we didn’t like

  • You have to boil the water yourself
  • Somewhat small water tank

Single Serve Coffee Maker Reviews – the Takeaway

If you’re always on the go, you should consider the machines that come with a travel mug, like the Keurig K-Classic, or the BLACK+DECKER. If you want to take your coffee with you, you should check out the more portable options, like the AdirChef Grab N’ Go, or the AeroPress. Now you just need to find your favorite coffee to brew in your fancy new coffee machine!

If you are looking for larger capacity coffee brewer that keep your coffee hot for hours, check out our list of best coffee makers with thermal carafe in this post. If you’re hoping to find the best grind and brew coffee makers, let our reviews help you. Or, if you want the best of the best, you might just find the right machine for you in our list of favorite SCAA-certified home brewers.

So, which coffee maker are you most likely to pick? Tell us in the comments section below.

FAQs

You clean a single-cup coffee maker according to the instructions in the manual. Or you can clean it with a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. Run the solution through once without inserting a filter, capsule or pod, then run clear water through again till it smells fresh.

No, you cannot put K-cups in a regular drip coffee maker like these. K-cups are designed to work exclusively with the Keurig brewing system.

You cannot make espresso in an AeroPress. Like moka pots, it doesn’t produce the required 9 bar of pressure for making true espresso. However, if you use a very fine grind and press very quickly, the coffee produced by an AeroPress will taste very similar to true espresso.

References
  1. Burrows, D. (n.d.). Have we solved the problem of coffee pods that harm the planet? Retrieved from http://bbia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/CAF26_52_SustainablePods-1.pdf
  2. Moskvitch, K. (2019, May 3). Turns out coffee pods are actually pretty good for the environment. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/coffee-pods-nespresso-recycling
  3. Hunt, K. (2018, July 17). 4 Eco-Friendly K-Cups You Can Swap Into Your Keurig. Retrieved from https://www.greenmatters.com/home/2018/07/17/Zcy0TY/eco-friendly-reusable-keurig-k-cups
  4. Coffee Brewing. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.coffeeresearch.org/coffee/brewing.htm
a close up photo of a nespresso pixie - one of the best single serve coffee makers - and a cup of coffee
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